This is a book about justice. But justice is elusive. I often have the uncomfortable feeling that not all who “cry justice” mean the same thing by the term. As I show in Six Theories of Justice: Perspectives from Philosophical and Theological Ethics (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1986), there is no single agreed standard for justice in our contemporary world. All the talk about justice today may not bring us any nearer to making justice a lived reality.
It seems to me, therefore, that a different approach is in order. Every small child develops early in life a sense of injustice. “That's not fair!” is the child's complaint against parents, siblings, and the world. Perhaps there is something in the sense of injustice that is an important clue to justice. Perhaps there will be more coherence in our cries of injustice than in our theories of justice. Or perhaps before we can have a theory of justice, we need to attend to injustice.
Moreover, injustice seems to me to be our lived reality. Perhaps this is because I am a woman and have experienced the injustice of sexism. Perhaps it is because I have been exposed to some voices of oppressed people from around the world. When I see bread lines in Berkeley or famine in Africa, I no longer think, as I once might have, “This is unfortunate.” Instead, I think, “This is unfair.”
This book is an attempt to get at that sense of unfairness and to see what it would mean for understanding the requirements of justice. I begin with lived experience as one possible clue to injustice. The first